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Schizophrenia and the Brain


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A friend passed this article to me today...

On a recent PBS television show hosted by Charlie Rose on the "mentally ill brain," Columbia University's Jeffrey Lieberman presented a series of brain scans of a person with schizophrenia, which showed enlarged ventricles and thus, as Lieberman told the audience, "loss of brain gray matter."

The idea being presented by Lieberman was that schizophrenia is a neurodegenerative disease, characterized by brain tissue loss...

To the public, this is a new paradigm for understanding why antipsychotics are an essential treatment for schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a neurodegenerative illness, characterized by brain tissue loss, and antipsychotics are "neuroprotective" agents that thwart that pathological process in some way.

Given that this idea is taking hold, it seems worthwhile to check the literature to see if it is well grounded in science.

MRI Scans

Making sense of MRI studies of schizophrenia patients can be a difficult task, partly because the results can be so inconsistent, and partly because the results are confounded by exposure to antipsychotics. However, earlier this year, Joanna Moncrieff and Jonathan Leo brought new clarity to this topic by analyzing the studies based on the patients' exposure to antipsychotics. ...

... "Overall, there seems to be enough evidence to suggest that antipsychotic drug treatment may play a role in reducing brain volume and increasing CSF or ventricular spaces . . . although it remains possible that the underlying disease process also causes brain volume changes, we suggest that antipsychotic drug treatment may be responsible for some of the changes that are usually attributed to schizophrenia."

Source: Psychology Today: Charlie Rose and the Mentally Ill Brain

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